WASHINGTON – Former Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., was indicted by a federal grand jury in Springfield on Thursday for allegedly using campaign and government funds improperly for cars, mileage reimbursements, interior decorating, a charter plane flight to a Bears game and sports tickets he resold for profit.
The 24-count indictment also accuses Schock, once a rising political star, of filing false income tax returns and covering up his alleged fraud schemes with fake invoices and false statements.
Schock — whose congressional district included part of Springfield — resigned from Congress on March 31, 2015. When the former Peoria lawmaker came to Congress in 2009, he was the youngest member of the House.
Since leaving Congress, Schock, 35, splits his time between Peoria and Los Angeles, where he works in real estate development.
“These charges allege that Mr. Schock deliberately and repeatedly violated federal law, to his personal and financial advantage,” said Springfield-based U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis.
“Mr. Schock held public office at the time of the alleged offenses, but public office does not exempt him or anyone else from accountability for alleged intentional misuse of public funds and campaign funds,” he said.
The Schock legal team had advance notice the indictment was coming and started an immediate counteroffensive on Thursday shortly before the U.S. attorney in Springfield made the indictment public.
“When the truth about these outlandish allegations is known, those allegations will be rejected because they are a contrived fiction,” Schock defense attorney George J. Terwilliger III said.
The fight for public opinion was focused on the Peoria area, from which the jury pool will be selected.
Schock, at a news conference near Peoria on Thursday said, according to a transcript provided by his attorney: “Unlike some politicians, I did not delete any emails, nor did my staff smash or destroy any electronic devices,” seemingly a reference to Hillary Clinton, whose email controversy contributed to Donald Trump’s stunning presidential victory on Tuesday.
“Quite the opposite, every record, every document, every picture on the wall was left behind. I took nothing with me. I knew I had nothing to hide, and I believed that a quick review would prove this fact. However, after the government realized there was no crime, they chose to spend the next 19 months, using two grand juries and millions of taxpayer dollars, in an attempt to manufacture a crime.
“I simply cannot believe it has come to this. However, we are here not by my choosing. But since we are where we are, I intend to not only prove these allegations false, but in the process, expose this investigation for what it was,” Schock said.
The indictment was handed down in the wake of a federal inquiry launched more than 20 months ago after stories in the Sun-Times, Associated Press, POLITICO and other publications raised questions about Schock’s lavish spending.
Those new reports were triggered after a feature in the Washington Post in February, 2015, detailed Schock’s flamboyant congressional office redecoration.
A Chicago Sun-Times exclusive about Schock’s use of taxpayer money for a charter plane to fly him and others from Peoria to Chicago and back for a November 2014 Bears game, was part of the wire fraud allegations against Schock in the indictment.
Other charges include:
- Filing false federal income tax returns between 2010 and 2015 by not disclosing all his income.
- Improperly using government and campaign funds to pay the interior decorator who designed and furnished the gaudy House office.
- Fraudulently billing his congressional office and campaign funds for mileage he never drove. “Assuming all of the miles driven on Schock’s vehicles were official and campaign-related, and no personal miles were driven during this time period, Schock allegedly caused the House and his campaign committees to reimburse him for approximately 150,000 miles more than the vehicles were actually driven.”
- The indictment contained a new disclosure, that Schock ran a sports ticket broker business while in Congress. In 2014, he used $12,000 from a campaign fund to buy Super Bowl tickets. He resold the tickets, made a $1,975 profit, never reimbursed his campaign fund and then fraudulently said the spending was a fundraising expense.
- Using a campaign fund to purchase a new 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe for $73,896, eventually had it titled in his name and then came up with a scheme to conceal the vehicle was for his personal use.
- Improperly used government money to purchase $29,021 for camera equipment for use by a personal photographer and videographer and then trying to cover it up by filing a false invoice.
- In one new disclosure, Schock is accused of violating House rules by taking a profit off money constituents paid to travel to Washington for briefings and meetings with “political leaders.”
- In another new disclosure, Schock is accused of falsely telling a former staffer that the person was being investigated by the FBI and Capitol Police, causing the person to spend more than $10,000 in legal fees. Schock allegedly illegally authorized use of a campaign fund to pay the former staffer’s father $7,500 for the lawyers fee.